The primary thing you discover about commercial advertising images is the product, and the way unbelievable it looks. Profitable and efficient commercial advertising photographers will be able to create an image which stands out for all the right reasons, grabs the attention of the target market and communicates the proper message virtually instantly.
However whilst it’s easy to admire the look of the product and the skill of the photographer, in most cases commercial advertising images shouldn’t be about what you see, however about what you do not see. You would possibly think that once you look at an advertising image what you are seeing is what the photographer saw, however that is invariably not the case.
After all, all of us know that there are tricks of the trade and many people will instantly assume that any image will have been doctored using a graphics device corresponding to Adobe’s Photoshop, and whilst this may be the case, there’s far more happening than meets the eye. One of the first things to understand in commercial advertising is that what you see is sort of certainly not quite what you would see when you had been looking on the product yourself in a shop.
Lighting, the setting and lots of little known tricks of the trade all come into play, helping to create an illusion which doesn’t just look real, it truly looks more real in some cases than it would in real life. For instance, if you happen to had been looking at a television in a shop you then’d probably either see an entire lot of distracting reflections in the screen, or the television could be on and you’d be watching a picture. In a product image although you are either going to see a screen that doesn’t have any distracting reflections in it, or it will look as if it’s switched on and displaying a picture.
The trouble is that when you take a photograph of a television, either switched on or off, neither result will look very realistic. So how do product photographers make their images look like so realistic, whilst still being entirely different to how a traditional photograph of a television would look?
So as to take a photograph of a television switched off commercial advertising photographers will either have a studio which features a 360 degree backcloth to remove any potentially distracting reflections, or they will edit the image afterwards, replacing the screen with a shaded black rectangle which looks realistic, but which does not even exist as part of the screen in real life. But how about taking a photograph of a television that’s switched on?
Should you’ve ever tried this you will know that the consequence will look horrible- very fuzzy and half missing. This is because the camera lens sees what your eyes and brain cannot see — the truth that the image on the screen is only an illusion created by quickly flickering lights. So professional photographers will normally take a screen grab from a pc and then superimpose that onto the photograph of the screen to improve the quality. The final image will look just as you count on it to, even though you know that that is not how it would really look when you took a photograph of it.
Effective commercial advertising photography allows us to be fooled, even when we know that what we are looking at can’t be real, despite looking very real. The art of illusion and of fooling the eye is a subtle one, because consumers will not be inquisitive about an image which has been obviously doctored, yet will be enticed by an image which they know cannot be completely real. When you’re unsure the right way to achieve the appropriate balance then it’s far safer to go away it in the palms of the experts.
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